I have made two quilts now (Luminous and Charm Dash) so I’m no expert, but I wanted to share the silly mistakes I made with my first quilt. Hopefully, they will help one of you so you don’t make these quilt mistakes too!
1. Not using enough pins
I thought I had used plenty of pins when I was making my quilt sandwich (the backing, batting and quilt top all ‘sandwiched’ together) but when it came to quilting I found out I was very wrong. I had put one pin every 6 – 8″. I used almost my whole box of pins. They were all lovely and laid out and I was so impressed with myself, but it turns out that about every 4″ is much better. I think this is even more important for beginners. I have since bought a second box of pins. So if in doubt, add more pins!!!! Looking for a tutorial on how to baste? Take a look at this tutorial from Sew Delicious.
2. The direction of my pins
As I said above, I thought I’d done a great job putting my pins in. They were nice and evenly spaced and all going the same direction so they would be easy to pull out, or so I thought. Once I started quilting, I realised that it’s best to start from the centre of the quilt and work out, so half my pins were in the wrong way. That meant that when it came time to take them out, half of them had the head facing towards me which makes it pretty tricky to undo them. Lesson learned! Next time, think about how you’re going to quilt it and place pins accordingly.
3. Presser foot tension
After the first few rows of my straight line quilting, I noticed that there was a bit of dragging of the fabric layer. Between two rows of quilting, the fabric looked like it was being pulled on the bias. After a callout on a quilting Facebook group, I had my answer. Lower the presser foot tension! I turned it down a bit and hooray…no more drag lines!
4. Using backing with straight lines on it
I chose a lovely snuggly flannelette for the backing of my quilt. I had it hiding in my stash and thought it would be perfect, though I didn’t really think about how annoying the pattern would be. It’s a check which made it a nightmare to try and line up on the back of the quilt. Even worse, it was not printed straight and also tended to warp near the edges so the back is a wonky looking mess. If I had done some nice meandering FMQ (free motion quilting) all over the quilt then it wouldn’t look quite so bad, but the straight line quilting and lines of the check really make it stand out. Next time, I’ll choose a plain fabric or nice floral.
5. Not taking breaks
I was so excited to see the end product I didn’t take breaks when I should. After kneeling over the quilt smoothing and pinning for a few hours, then even more hours pushing it through the sewing machine, my shoulders and back were in agony for the next few days. Taking a bit of a break and having a stretch every hour (and probably stopping after 3 or so hours for the day) would definitely make quilting a more enjoyable experience.
6. Forgetting to relax
I was a bit nervous about quilting and it made my whole body tense. My shoulders were up by my ears! I think this contributed to the back ache! I should put a post-it note on my machine ‘shoulders back and down’. I have seen people suggest having a glass of wine before you start quilting and I think that it great advice!
7. Pulling the backing too tight
When I taped the quilt back to the floor for my quilt sandwich, I think I pulled it a little too tight and it contributed to a bit of bagginess on my quilt front. The quilt back should be smoothed flat and taped just taut, but not tight. You don’t want the tape to be pulling it, but rather holding it in place. MsMidge has a great tutorial for basting on your table. Must try that next time!
But you know what?! None of these things really matter. I can learn from these mistakes (and so can you) so that I don’t make them next time, but it’s not the end of the world. It’s just a quilt people! And we’ve all got to start somewhere. The only thing left to do on the quilt is embroider the date on it so that 60 years from now I can look at it and see how far I’ve come. Every time I use it now all I see is the awesomeness of my first quilt and I don’t notice the mistakes unless I turn it over and see the wonky backing, but I guess that’s why it’s called the back of a quilt!
What quilt mistakes have you made?
PS. If you want to know why I’m wearing such grubby pants while basting a white quilt, stay tuned for an upcoming post, they are one of my quilting secret weapons!